If I wasn’t a nutritionist, I’d be totally confused about nutrition (well sometimes I do get confused but I figure it out with plenty of research). Vegans swear by their diet – generally higher in carbohydrate with no animal protein or fat, yet so do those following a paleo style diet whose diet is relatively low in carbohydrate, eat mostly on animal proteins and aren’t afraid of animal fat. Then there’s gluten free, dairy free, grain free, sugar free, wheat free, soy free. No wonder people get confused. There’s so many different opinions and people who are giving advice on what not to eat.
Well yes, nutrition IS complicated – there’s still things we don’t know about how nutrients interact and work within our bodies to promote health and well being, or cause disease. Researchers are still learning and discovering new things all the time. But we do know a lot.
And one thing that is fact is we are remarkably adaptable to a range of eating patterns, but what we do know is that wholefood diets are best. So what’s common between them? There’s no highly processed refined foods, they’re low in added sugars and they are nutrient rich. After all, what we need for our bodies to run well is a range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
The following population groups eat totally different diets, but they have very low rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes etc.
- The traditional Mediterranean diet is moderate-high in fat (around 40% fat), seafood and vegetables.
- The traditional Kitavans eat a very high-carb diet, with fat from coconut and little protein.
- Okiniwan people of Japan eat a very low fat diet, particularly low in saturated fat and have a high carbohydrate intake.
- The Arctic Inuit diet is low in carbohydrates and high in fat and animal protein.
Quite different, yet they’re all healthy population groups.
It IS possible to eat a high carbohydrate diet and be healthy, just as it is possible to eat a low carbohydrate, higher protein diet and be healthy!
What they do have in common though is the following. And it’s these things that are important in healthy lifestyles.
They focus on high quality, nutrient rich foods – there’s no fizzy, pop tarts or pies on the daily menu here. Nope, it’s all about antioxidant rich vegetables and fruit and other nutrient rich non processed foods. Some of these diets include grains. Some don’t. Some include include meat. Some don’t.
So, for me personally, rather than focusing on following particularly ridged rules I believe it’s important to work on building sustainable, longer term habits. You don’t have to be paleo to be healthy. You don’t have to be vegetarian to be healthy.
It’s about focusing on a whole foods diet that works for you. I love food – I aim to eat a whole foods diet most of the, but I still treat myself. I eat chocolate. Sometimes I eat fries. But most of my diet is made up of whole foods.
After all, food isn’t just about nutrients. Food has a social aspect, it has a cultural aspect and it’s meant to be enjoyed.
So in a nutshell, the best way to eat is a whole foods diet that works for you.
Image from here